Urbana’s downtown merchants are collaborating on a Pumpkin Walk that will take place Oct. 4 and 5 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and which they hope will bring shoppers back to Monument Square. Tickets are available for 120 shoppers to purchase for $20, which gets them a shopping bag courtesy of Monument Square District and a passport for 18 local businesses within a block or two of Monument Square.
“I think the easiest way to describe it is a shop hop,” said Tina Knotts, owner of Let’s Eat Cake. “It’s a shopping experience of all the businesses and restaurants in the downtown, and you do have to pay $20 for a ticket, which is actually going to be turned in at Monument Square’s Legacy Park for a passport. You take your presale ticket to the park and you get a passport, and you get a lovely shopping bag compliments of Monument Square District. Then we give you a map and you have two days to finish your pumpkin walk. You don’t have to do it all real quickly, we had folks last year who carried over from a Friday into a Saturday, and we will give you a list of the merchants that are participating. At each stop you will receive a gift from the merchants, probably a $3 to $5 gift that is a pumpkin or fall themed item.”
At the end of their shopping experience, pumpkin walkers can return their passport with at least 12 of 18 stamps for a chance to win a grand prize, a gift basket with items donated from the downtown businesses they patronized, as well as gift certificates worth $200-$300. The drawing will take place on Wednesday following the event.
A limited number of tickets will be available the day of the event, but shoppers are encouraged to purchase their tickets in advance to give the merchants time to prepare their gifts. Tickets are available at The Boston, Oxner’s General Store, Let’s Eat Cake, Cafe Paradiso, Montego Designs Unlimited, Unique Boutique, Lily’s Garden, Serina Ann Photography, Kaleidoscope, and J. Michael Jewelry and Gold.
Other merchants participating in the event, but without presale tickets available, include Eve’s Place, Guild Gallery, Carmazzi’s, One Eleven, Downtown Diva’s, Hometown Music, the Gloria Theatre, the the Depot Coffeehouse.
Event organizers said that the Urbana High School band will play on Saturday afternoon in the square, and that Bill Purk and the Muleskinners will be strolling around downtown Saturday after lunch.
“It’s like a treasure hunt in the downtown area, and there will be lots of variety in regard to the giveaways,” said Mary Manoloff, co-owner of Oxner’s General Store. “I think it does help our businesses. It’s unity so that we all are abreast of what’s going on. We partner, we work together, we collaborate and support each other. I think the more that are involved, the more we can spread that message about shopping downtown.”
Oxner’s plans to hand out a small, craft item and a coupon to all pumpkin walkers. They also have coffee, tea, and either soda or water available, and owner Mike Manoloff said he may have a popcorn machine set up. Some of Oxner’s vendors may also choose to get involved in the event.
“Sales have been down since the roundabout construction, but we’re all looking forward to October and November because we know the project will be completed and they’re going to repave out front and we’re hoping to get folks coming back downtown,” said Manoloff. “Just like all retail businesses, we survive on this time of year as we get into October, November, December and Christmas season.”
Knotts said that Let’s Eat Cake will be offering a choice between a pumpkin cutout cookie, a sour cream cookie made from an old family recipe, or a pumpkin cupcake. She said the Depot Coffeehouse will be offering pumpkin lattes.
“The downtown merchants association is an informal group that started meeting about two years ago,” she said. “We wanted to bring events and activity back downtown, we want the downtown to be vibrant, and we also want folks that live here as well as people that are out of the community just to know what’s here. So we thought that if we got together and knew and understood what each other are selling, then we could be advocates for each other’s businesses. You can’t sell what you don’t know, so we really joined together.”
The group does not currently have any appointed officers, but Knotts said it was growing and may soon reach the point where they need to adopt more formality. In the meantime, Knotts is happy to accept the role as spokesperson.
Upcoming events for the downtown merchants association also include a holiday open house the first weekend in November, Nov. 8, 9 and 10, and a horse parade the day after Thanksgiving.
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304